Category: Romance

Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Welcome to the Half-Light City.

Imagine a city divided. On one side, the Night World, ruled by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages. A city held together by nothing more than a treaty-and even then, just barely…

I was born of a Fae mother, but I had no place amongst her kind. They called me “soulless.” An abomination. Perhaps they’re right…I’m a wraith, a shadow who slips between worlds. I was given into the service of a Blood Lord who raised me to be his most feared assassin. Still, I’m nothing more than a slave to my master, and to the need that only he can fulfill…

Then he orders me to kill Simon DuCaine, a powerful sunmage. In the blaze of his magic, my own disappears. Instead of seeking revenge, Simon shows me mercy. He wants to free me. But that’s one thing my master and his kind will never allow.

And even if I thought I could trust Simon, stepping from the shadow into the light isn’t as simple as it sounds…

I was a little apprehensive in the beginning of Shadow Kin simply because I’m very familiar with the whole ‘assassin falls in love with his/her mark’ trope.  However, I loved M.J. Scott’s take on this old trope because of course nothing is simple in the Half-Light City.

One of the things I really liked about Shadow Kin is the world-building.  There are four factions: vampires, werewolves, humans and the Fae.  There is a sort of tense peace between the four races but there’s a lot of compromise.  The most horrific compromise is the fact that any human who goes to the Night World chasing vampires is lost to humanity and their remaining family have little recourse if their loved one goes missing or becomes blood-locked.  (Blood-locking is when a human drinks vampire blood and becomes addicted to it, eventually going mad.)  And of course since the Fae are vulnerable to iron, they also limit the total supply of iron for the entire city.  Werewolves don’t seem to do much except fight with the vampires and fight each other for dominance.  It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this but that’s the beauty of this book: the world-building is excellent and M.J. Scott is a good enough writer that she can play with the political tensions while still focusing on the interpersonal conflicts.

Of course my favourite part of the book has to be the characters.  Lily is a woman that doesn’t belong anywhere: the Fae don’t want her because she’s a wraith and she’ll never truly belong with the vampires even though she does Lucius’ dirty work.  She’s been manipulated and used for her whole life so when she tries to kill Simon, fails and then he offers to hep her escape Lucius she obviously doesn’t believe him.  I can’t really blame her because I certainly wouldn’t in her situation.  But Simon is one of those few people that is entirely sincere in his desire to help people; it’s almost a fault with him.  He and Lily make an odd couple but their romance is very sweet.  It’s not easy and even the caring Simon can act like a total jerk (particularly in the last quarter of the book) but that just makes it more realistic.

The plot is fast-paced if a little predictable.  Well, mostly predictable—there was a major surprise regarding Lily’s powers at the end of the novel.  Still, the creative world-building, well-developed characters and sweet romance more than make up for a little predictability.  In addition to that, the ending resolves the main plot while leaving so much more for Scott to explore in the rest of the series.  Shadow Kin is a good start to the Half-Light City series and I can’t wait to read more.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Dark Minds by Michelle Diener

dark-minds-by-michelle-diener

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The mind is the most powerful weapon of all . . .

Imogen Peters knows she’s a pawn. She’s been abducted from Earth, held prisoner, and abducted again. So when she gets a chance at freedom, she takes it with both hands, not realizing that doing so will turn her from pawn to kingmaker.

Captain Camlar Kalor expected to meet an Earth woman on his current mission, he just thought he’d be meeting her on Larga Ways, under the protection of his Battle Center colleague. Instead, he and Imogen are thrown together as prisoners in the hold of a Class 5 battleship. When he works out she’s not the woman who sparked his mission, but another abductee, Cam realizes his investigation just got a lot more complicated, and the nations of the United Council just took a step closer to war.

Imogen’s out of her depth in this crazy mind game playing out all around her, and she begins to understand her actions will have a massive impact on all the players. But she’s good at mind games. She’s been playing them since she was abducted. Guess they should have left her minding her own business back on Earth…

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve wanted to meet Imogen Peters ever since Fiona met the parrot she trained to sing the final song in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And, well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Imogen’s tale essentially begins with her seeing her captors massacred by a bloodthirsty alien species that seems to go berserk when they fight. It’s not a great start for her so when she’s on board the Class Five with the Krik and meets other prisoners they have taken, things get interesting. The Class Five called Paxe is the one who saves her from the Krik in order to save himself. In this way we get to see a Class Five’s awakening and the beginning of their humanization whereas Sazo and Eazi were definitely more socialized by the time we meet them. It was fascinating to see Imogen try to reign in some of Paxe’s practical if cruel responses to situations as well as see Paxe respond to Imogen’s emotions and become aware of his own emotions. Their friendship isn’t as long-lasting as say, Rose and Sazo’s, but they definitely have some chemistry and it makes for a great read.

While some readers may be disappointed about the romance part of the story being relegated to the side, I actually didn’t mind the change of pace. Imogen is in a very different situation from Rose and Fiona, what with a war between United Council members on the horizon as the true extent of the Tecran treachery is revealed. Cam is still a fascinating love interest and the pure attraction between him and Imogen can’t be denied. But it’s not a main plot point and although I was thrown by it at first, as I said it does make sense given the political situation and the limited amount of time the Grih and others have to avoid all-out war. Dark Minds is definitely a faster read than the previous two novels and that really makes it a great ending to the stories of these three incredible women (because of course we get to meet Fiona and Rose again).

Although I would have of course loved for the trilogy to turn into a ten book series simply because of the quality of Michelle Diener’s writing and world-building, this is a good place to stop. The ending is both happy and tragic but more importantly, it’s satisfying. It ties up all of the loose ends while at least leaving the possibility of more books set in the same world at a later date. Dark Minds was an emotionally resonant, enjoyable end to a trilogy that I’ve fallen in love with over the past few years. If you haven’t started the trilogy, I highly recommend going out and buying Dark Horse. But if you’ve read the first two books, you need to buy the third book; you won’t be disappointed.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Dark Deeds by Michelle Diener

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Far from home . . .

Fiona Russell has been snatched from Earth, imprisoned and used as slave labor, but nothing about her abduction makes sense. When she’s rescued by the Grih, she realizes there’s a much bigger game in play than she could ever have imagined, and she’s right in the middle of it.

Far from safe . . .

Battleship captain Hal Vakeri is chasing down pirates when he stumbles across a woman abducted from Earth. She’s the second one the Grih have found in two months, and her presence is potentially explosive in the Grih’s ongoing negotiations with their enemies, the Tecran. The Tecran and the Grih are on the cusp of war, and Fiona might just tip the balance.

Far from done . . .

Fiona has had to bide her time while she’s been a prisoner, pretending to be less than she is, but when the chance comes for her to forge her own destiny in this new world, she grabs it with both hands. After all, actions speak louder than words.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

For those of you hoping to see a continuation of Rose’s story from the first book, don’t worry! Fiona is obviously her own character and we see things through her eyes but we also get to see what has happened to Rose in the time between the books. With that said, let’s get on with the review.

I was skeptical about switching characters for the second novel but in the end I actually like Fiona a little more than Rose. They’re both great characters but I absolutely love Fiona’s resourcefulness and the fact that while she does find love with Hal, her priorities are more focused on finding out why she was kidnapped and if there are other humans out in space that faced similar predicaments. She’s very practical and determined and I think of myself that way so I guess I’m a little biased toward Fiona because I see myself in her. But really, each to their own. Both Fiona and Rose are strong characters facing tough predicaments and while they obviously aren’t thrilled about their situations, they adapt and maybe even learn to love their new reality.

In the last book, the political tensions between the Tecran and the Grih are almost at the boiling point by the end. However, with the discovery of Fiona, a second kidnapped human that proves Rose’s situation was not unique, things definitely start to boil over. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling some fascinating plot twists, but let’s just say that unfortunately, Fiona and Rose aren’t alone in their predicament either. And the Grih will go to war with the Tecran for their egregious and blatant violations of intergalactic treaties regarding the treatment of sentient beings. Politics definitely plays a bigger role in this book than it did in Dark Deeds.

One of the things I loved in this second book is that rather than letting the plot drag on as it builds up to the third book (as so many second novels do), Michelle Diener ups the ante. Now that the Grih are aware other Class Fives are out there, they’re not all that inclined toward leniency. Even though Sazo is on their side, they know it’s because of his personal connection to Rose. What if Eazi isn’t as attached to Fiona and is more inclined to enjoy true freedom? What if he turns agains them, especially after Fiona is very nearly killed multiple times by both the Grih and others? Again, I can’t say too much without spoiling things but let’s just say that Eazi isn’t Sazo; he’s a little more inclined to find his own path and the results are hilarious and satisfying.

Fiona was a great character, the political tensions have only increased and Michelle Diener managed not to fall into the temptation of creating a pattern of turning Class Fives exclusively over the Grih. Really, what more can you ask for in a second book? I honestly can’t wait for the third book, Dark Minds. What little we saw of Imogen through Fiona’s eyes makes me excited just to meet her character, let alone find out what happens to the Tecran and the Grih in the end.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet

The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Three months after her trip through the vortex, Marisa MacCallum is having second thoughts about her engagement to Darian Fiore as she struggles to adjust to royal life.

But when palace spies uncover a secret plot to assassinate the royal family and eradicate the Crimson Knights, Marisa and Darian must put their plans for the future on hold to stop Savino da Rocha and his legion of warrior giants from stealing the throne.

After narrowly escaping an attempt on her life, Marisa is left to defend Crocetta while Darian marches off to war. But when Savino strikes at the heart of the kingdom with supernatural powers of darkness, Marisa must wage an even greater battle against the spiritual forces bent on destroying her family and ending the Fiore dynasty forever.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Normally, I try to avoid books that deal with heavy religious themes.  They just aren’t for me as most of them come off as overly preachy and generally obnoxious.  With that said, I did love The Carnelian Tyranny, which basically follows the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ in an alternate world.  So what made this book different from so many religion-themed books I’ve read?  Well, for one there’s not all that much preaching.  Yes, there are scenes where the characters pray and debate their faith but it never comes across as Cheryl Koevoet herself saying to her readers “You must accept Christianity”.  No, it was just a book where faith is presented as a normal part of many of the charcters’ lives and that was that.

And what really separates The Carnelian Tyranny from many other books I’ve read with similar themes is that while the religious aspect is part of the plot, it’s not necessarily the main focus at all times.  No, Marisa’s doubts about her engagement and her role as the future ruler of Crocetta are front and centre.  There’s also the whole Savino angle as our devious Count isn’t going to take Marisa’s perceived insult toward him lying down.  So the religious plot and the political plot are intertwined in a way that feels quite natural, particularly in a society generally modeled on Medieval Europe.  And of course there’s also Marisa and Darian’s relationship, which becomes strained because Darian doesn’t understand why Marisa is so reluctant to get married young and Marisa is having a hard time accepting her new high status even though she knows it’s her duty (and her birthright).

Marisa in this second book is a little more confident and just a little more sure of herself.  She’s working hard to learn the language of her people as well as the customs and responsibilities being a ruler of Crocetta involves.  Marisa has Darian to support her but their relationship obviously isn’t perfect.  They argue and fight but you can always tell they love each other deeply.  I can’t go into much detail without spoiling some amazing plot twists, but when they get separated it’s this love that keeps both of them going even when things seem completely hopeless.  Best of all, Cheryl Koevoet doesn’t neglect her secondary characters as she lets us see things not only from Darian and Marisa’s points of view but also those of Marisa’s brother Marcus and a few other notable characters.

With a relatively unpredictable plot and some great character development, The Carnelian Tyranny is a solid second book.  On top of that, there was also some great world-building as readers were introduced to the politics of the entire world of Carnelia because Crocetta is not as isolated as it may appear.  There are outside forces constantly at work and not all of them are friendly toward Marisa as the new ruler.  The only real quibble I have with The Carnelian Tyranny is that I felt everything was wrapped up too neatly in the end.  There weren’t any outside threats other than Savino when the story was over despite the fact many countries/kingdoms would love to attack anyone near them when they’ve proven weak (as history has shown us time and time again).  And one of the outside kingdoms that came to Crocetta’s aid didn’t actually play that big of a role in the war against Savino.  I felt there was more to explore in the way of international politics.

However, if you loved The Carnelian Legacy, you’ll probably enjoy The Carnelian Tyranny as much as I did.  I can’t wait for the third book.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Dragon Thief by Marc Secchia

Dragon Thief by Marc Secchia

(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Kal was not a thief. He certainly did not intend to steal any dragon’s treasure.

He was an adventurer. Avid art collector. Incurable wealth adjuster and risk-taker. Kal had legendary expertise in the security arrangements of palaces and noble houses the world over. He hankered for remote, craggy mountaintops and the dragon hoards he might find hidden beneath them. Besides, what harm was there in looking? Dragon gold was so … shiny.

Most especially, he was not planning for any treasure to steal him.

That was a little awkward, to say the least.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Dragon Thief starts with our loveable rogue Kal foolishly trying to steal a dragon’s horde and finding a gorgeous, naked woman amongst the treasure.  What’s a rogue to do?  Does he rescue her as well or is this some sort of trap set up by the dragon?  What could a dragon possibly want with some random woman?  Well, as Kal finds out there’s more to the woman than meets the eye because the woman, Tazithiel, is a Shapeshifter.  And although she’s not happy about a thief in her hoard, things take an interesting turn and the two work out a mutually beneficial truce that turns into a friendship, then something more.

Both Kal and Tazithiel have problematic pasts and both have huge trust issues.  Kal has trust issues by virtue of his chosen profession while Tazithiel has a horrific past filled with abuse because of her shapeshifter status.  Yet they come together with a fascinating goal: to find out what’s on the other side of the 25 league tall mountains that encircle the Island World.  Is there a world beyond there containing something other than islands surrounded by poisonous clouds?  What manner of creatures live beyond the Rim-Wall Mountains?  Obviously Kal and Tazi’s journey isn’t as straightforward as they’d like, but they do find answers in an interesting way by the end of the book.

Marc Secchia has brought his trademark painstaking care to world-building once again.  Not only do we learn so much more about various islands and cultures within the Island World, we learn a lot more about dragon lore and the fate of Aranya and the Sylakian Empire.  There are also more technological innovations than we saw in any of the previous books because Dragon Thief takes place 311 years after Aranya, which was the most recent book in the Island World’s long timeline.  I don’t want to give away too much, especially if you’ve read the previous books in the same world, but let’s just say some things have changed tremendously while others will never change.  Especially people/dragons.

While the beginning is a bit slow after Tazithiel decides not to eat Kal on the spot, the beautiful writing style keeps things interesting as the two new lovers work out their issues.  After that, the plot speeds up quite a bit because dragons aren’t exactly the kind of creatures that are welcome everywhere in the Island World.  And once Kal introduces Tazi to some of his friends and associates…let’s just say things get interesting as Tazi discovers a whole difference side of our thief.  Best of all, throughout the book there is Marc Secchia’s trademark humour that had me quite literally laughing out loud at some points.  So while there are some pretty heavy themes in Dragon Thief, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Although there’s no official sequel set, the ending is satisfying yet leaves a little wiggle room if Secchia wants to continue the story of Tazithiel and Kal.  Their actions have some very fascinating implications for our Island World and I can’t wait to see what he does with the new revelation about the Rim-Wall Mountains.

If you haven’t read any of Marc Secchia’s dragon books, Dragon Thief is a great place to start.  It’s funny and touching, fast-paced yet with plenty of character development and there is some incredible world-building going on here.  And if you’re already a fan like I am, Dragon Thief is a great installment in the overall story of the Island World.  It builds on what we’ve seen and learned in previous books and introduces us to both an old friend and a whole new cast of characters to love.  You really can’t ask for more.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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*Not available until Decmber 12, the release date.

**Not available.


Like all of Marc Secchia’s dragon books, you don’t really need to read this one in a particular order.  However, it does help if you read the books in order of publication because of certain minor spoilers that crop up.  Here’s my current recommended reading order:

  1. Aranya (Shapeshifter Dragons #1)
  2. The Pygmy Dragon (Shapeshifter Dragon Legends #1)
  3. Shadow Dragon (Shapeshifter Dragons #2)
  4. Dragonfriend (Dragonfriend #1)
  5. Dragonlove (Dragonfriend #2)

Like I said, you don’t have to read all of these books before Dragon Thief but they will certainly give you a greater appreciation of all of the mythological references contained within the book.  For example, there are references to the Pygmy Dragon, Hualiama and Aranya.  They’re easy to figure out in the context of the book but again, you’ll have a greater appreciation of just how intertwined Secchia’s various series are and how rich the mythology he’s created is if you do.  With that said, if you’ve read the first two Shapeshifter Dragon books you may want to wait until the third is out because there are some minor spoilers in the references to Aranya throughout the book.  And of course the very existence of dragons is a bit of a spoiler considering how dire Aranya’s situation is at the end of Shadow Dragon.

The Summer Marked by Rebekah Purdy

The Summer Marked by Rebekah Purdy(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The sequel to the chilling Winter People returns to the world of Faerie, and is a romantic and enchanting follow-up.

Salome left humankind behind to be with her boyfriend, Gareth, in the Kingdom of Summer. But now forces of darkness are rising. Her happily-ever-after is coming apart, and the Kingdom is on the brink of war.

Newly-single Kadie Byers is on her way home for Thanksgiving, imagining a visit filled with hot chocolate, a hot guy for a little rebound action, and some girl time with her bestie, Salome. Except she receives a message from Salome with two important words: PLEASE HURRY.

When Kadie rushes to help Salome, she’s ripped from the human world and pulled into the kingdoms of Faerie, where she’s shocked to learn that Salome’s monsters are real, and that she’s now at the mercy of one extremely vengeful Winter Queen…

Now both Salome and Kadie must find a way to survive the deadly chaos…or lose themselves to Winter’s deadly, icy grasp.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

While I had been initially skeptical about The Winter People, the first book in this series, I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end.  So when I got the chance to read The Summer Marked, I had absolutely no hesitation in getting started.  I couldn’t wait to find out the next chapter in Salome’s life after the supposedly completely happy fairytale ending of the first book.  Of course, not all is well in paradise.

Salome and Gareth have moved in together but Nevin (the Summer king Salome kissed in order to free him from his curse) seems to be skulking around trying to break his promise that Salome and Gareth could be together.  He seems increasingly controlling and also seems to be trying to separate the two, bringing them to court only to have Gareth sent away on mission after mission.  While all this sounds so stereotypical, I can assure you that as always, Rebekah Purdy has some tricks up her sleeve, including a massive plot twist that totally blindsided me.  It was a pleasant surprise and explained a lot in hindsight but I can’t talk much more about it without giving away massive spoilers.  Needless to say, Salome and Gareth are finally together and everyone at court including Nevin want to tear them apart.  And events throughout the novel definitely conspire to do just that.

Meanwhile, Salome’s friend Kadie is left wandering on her own.  She got dumped and wants to live closer to home so she dropped out of university to come home for Thanksgiving and re-assess her life choices.  When she gets there, of course Salome is gone and her mother and grandmother aren’t really being clear on where she is.  So when she gets a text from Salome asking her to come right away, she gets sucked into a vicious trap set up by the Winter Court and has to endure unimaginable things in the land of Faerie.  All while Salome lives an ideal life on the outside while she’s secretly barely holding things together.

While I didn’t like Kadie’s point of view at first because it sounded so much like the stereotypical ditzy best friend, she really came through as a character.  At the Winter Court she learns to keep her mouth shut and scheme in order to survive and sometimes does the unthinkable to do so.  She gains a real strength of character that is absolutely remarkable when you compare it to how she was in the beginning of The Winter People.  That’s not to say she wasn’t a strong or three dimensional character then, but she really comes into her own and controls her own story (or thinks she does) a lot more than she used to.  I really did like Kadie in this second book, despite some of the things she does.

Salome, having conquered a lot of her fears in the first book, learns that she has a long way to go if she’s going to survive alongside Gareth in Faerie now that the Winter Court is on a warpath.  She learns to play the vicious games that are characteristic of faerie politics while adding in some human compassion that the fey seem to lack.  And when faced with two horrible choices that would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the novel, her choice shows just how much she has really grown.  Essentially, Salome really comes into her own in The Summer Marked so if you loved her in the first book, you will love her even more in this one.

I found the plot was a lot faster in this book compared to the first.  There was of course plenty of character development and a lot of interpersonal/intrapersonal conflict but the plot moved along quite nicely.  There’s quite a bit more action since the threat of the Winter Court is ramped up and the whole of Summer is at stake.  And, as with the first book, Purdy throws in so many plot twists that you can’t help but read on to find out what happens next.  The Summer Marked was definitely a one-sitting book for me because of that.  Even if the plot wasn’t fast-paced, it would have still been a one-sitting book because Rebekah Purdy has a magnificent writing style.  It’s beautifully descriptive and she does both the darker Winter Court and the gorgeous Summer Court incrdibly well.  It was her writing that initially sucked me into the first book and it’s part of why I enjoy this series so much.  While The Summer Marked was far darker than The Winter People, it was still very enjoyable on many different levels.

You really can’t go wrong with The Winter People series.  If you haven’t read the first book, you absolutely should right now.  If you read the first book and loved it, then you definitely need to read this second book.  It will blow you away.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet

The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Marisa MacCallum always believed that the man of her dreams was out there somewhere. The problem is—he’s in another dimension.

After the death of her father, eighteen-year-old Marisa’s life is on the verge of imploding. She seeks comfort on her daily ride through the woods of Gold Hill, but when a mysterious lightning storm strikes, she is hurled into the ancient, alternate dimension of Carnelia where she is discovered by the arrogant but attractive nobleman, Ambassador Darian Fiore.

Stranded in a world teeming with monsters, maniacs and medieval knights, Marisa is forced to join Darian on a dangerous mission to negotiate peace with his cousin and archenemy, Savino da Rocha. Along the way, she starts to see Darian’s softer side and finds herself falling in love. But once she learns that he is locked into an arranged marriage, her heart shatters.

When Savino falls for her charms and demands her hand in exchange for peace, Marisa is faced with an impossible choice: marry the enemy of the man she loves or betray them both and become the catalyst for a bloody war.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Some books you can tell right away that they’re going to be amazing.  (Or amazingly bad.)  Others it takes a little while to tell.  And still others, like The Carnelian Legacy, you really aren’t sure of until the very end.  I’ll explain.

From the first page, I loved The Carnelian Legacy.  Marisa is a young woman who has gone through the unthinkable: not only did she lose her mother at a very young age, she just lost her father in her last year of high school.  She’s grown up so quickly because her life has been shattered and then, when she seeks out a little peace in the woods of Gold Hill she’s thrust into a whole other dimension.  Not only that, she’s stumbled into the middle of a very dangerous political situation where even the slightest misstep could mean the deaths of thousands on her conscience.  When Marisa met Darian and Arrie (the prince and the diplomat, respectively) I began to have my doubts about The Carnelian Legacy.  Although I loved the beginning, I felt apprehensive about where Cheryl Koevoet was taking the story.  Was she going to turn a fairly interesting and unique premise into your typical love at first sight story?

Throughout the novel, there were times I would have answered yes and times I would have answered no because of the many, many plot twists.  Some were predictable and some weren’t.  But what really clinched it for me is in the end when I thought I had figured out everything and seen through the upcoming stereotypical plot twist, Koevoet changed the rules.  In a good way!  She defly dodged a predictable trope by combining many other older tropes to create something new and fresh.  It was such a relief.  So when you’re reading this book, you really do have to give the plot a chance right up until the end.  It might turn out the way you think, but the journey will be very, very surprising.

That said, even if the plot had fallen flat on its face, I would still have enjoyed the book.  Marisa is a character after my own heart.  She grew up way before her time and had to play the adult from a very young age.  Not only that, she had to decide whether risking everything for love was really worth it or whether she should do the responsible, practical thing that might bring about love in time.  So you could say I’m a bit biased but Cheryl Koevoet really made Marisa come to life.  She really portrays her frayed emotional state well without making her melodramatic.  Anyone who has experienced loss in their life will understand Marisa’s frequent mood swings and crying spells, believe me.  Especially since not only did she lose a parent, she lost her remaining family and was transported to another dimension where only a handful of people speak her language.

Darian is a wonderful male lead.  Some people will probably be frustrated with him and all his contradictions but I think it made him far more realistic.  He, like Marisa, has had to shoulder adult responsibilities from a young age and that has made him slightly paranoid and unwilling to trust anyone.  Just when you think he’s on the brink of opening up about his past or his feelings, he shuts down once again as he reminds himself of his duty.  His romance with Marisa is far from straightforward, just like in real life.  Confessions come from both sides at inconvenient times, feelings don’t always stay constant and both sides make enormous mistakes at one time or another.  But that’s what really clinched The Carnelian Legacy for me: it was very realistic in its depiction of a relationship with so many outside forces exerting pressure on it.

The world-building was also very good.  While this is obviously not a political thriller, Koevoet did a good job of making the politics of the kingdom believable.  Everyone had their own motivations, even the secondary characters, and nothing was as it seemed.  She also presented a very interesting view of alternate dimensions that I haven’t really seen in science fiction/fantasy before.  I can’t explain it without spoiling some of the plot points, but suffice it to say you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  There was even a realistic depiction of religion in the kingdom that I thoroughly enjoyed because Koevoet was able to create religious characters without being preachy (unlike some authors).  It was a refreshing change.

Basically, while I was very skeptical about the novel at times I am so glad that I stuck with it because it really is amazing.  It’s definitely one of my better NetGalley finds and I can’t wait to read the second book, The Carnelian Tyranny.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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